Sometimes you need to recharge your batteries and look outside your own universe. To that end, I recommend the National Retail Federation's "This Is Retail" competition at nrf.com.
The contest is now down to 10 semifinalists. Sadly, there are no linen stores among them. Nevertheless, the two-minute videos from the contestants provide a nice pick-me-up - and, who knows, maybe a few ideas.
There's Heart'n Home in Laurens, Iowa. Owner Julie Wurr started out doing craft shows, then opened a shop in her garage and built from there to a Main Street shop where she draws customers with wine tastings.
The owners of Anna and Eve - Anna Jones and Robert Houston - created a no-slip swaddle strap after the birth of the daughter, Eve. They now run an online retail business with nationwide distribution.
Bookman's Entertainment Exchange in Tuscon (books, movies and music) is on a mission to prove "used" is not a dirty word.
Honolulu's Eden in Love boutique partners with a charity every month - such as inviting five women being treated for cancer at a local hospital to come into the store for a complete makeover before the holidays.
Jim Adams, the owner of Baltimore's Falls Road Running Store, makes the case for retail this way: A customer buys a shoe. The store orders more shoes from a vendor. The vendor hires a truck driver to make deliveries. The driver stops at a diner to eat, leaving a tip for the waiter, who uses the money to go to the movies, where he orders some popcorn, which is produced by a corn farmer. The farmer has a sore back and goes to see the doctor. The doctor says, "You need a better pair of shoes."
It's good stuff. Check it out.